Edible Plants for Midwest Wellness Gardens and Foraging

Although I had previously written this article about edible plants with only foragers in mind, I think it’s also a great reference for Wellness Garden designers.

Most Wellness Gardens are used in a passive manner, as in a place for sitting and reflecting. These types of gardens are called Restorative Gardens, and can be found at many hospitals, hospice and community parks.The other main type of garden is called an Enabling Garden, as it allows people to work with and among the plants.

When designing for an Enabling Garden, plant choices need to selected quite carefully as clients will be face to face with those plants. Many times clients may break branches, allowing sap to run or even eat them, unquestionably.

I have read the United States Air Force Search & Rescue Survival Manual cover to cover many times. There’s some really good information in there that can help anyone stay on this side of the grass longer during a bad situation. (BTW – There is an app for this ) There are two chapters dedicated to plants alone. Plants can be your best bet for long term survival or your short ride to being plant food.

Here’s another wonderful site: Plants For a Future that lists over 7,000 plants and their medicinal purposes, really really great stuff going on there.

These are the steps to the Universal Edibility Test:

1. Test only one part of a potential food plant at a time.
2 Separate the plants into its basic components—leaves, stems, roots, buds, and flowers.
3 Smell the food for strong or acid odors. Remember, smell alone does not indicate a plant is edible or inedible.
4 Do not eat for 8 hours before starting the test.
5 During the 8 hours you abstain from eating, test for contact poisoning by placing a piece of the plant part you are testing on the inside of your elbow or wrist. Usually 15 minutes is enough time to allow for a reaction
6 During the test period, take nothing by mouth except purified water and the plant part you are testing.
7 Select a small portion of a single part and prepare it the way you plan to eat it.
8 Before placing the prepared plant part in your mouth, touch a small portion (a pinch) to the outer surface of your lip to test for burning or itching.
9 If after 3 minutes there is no reaction on your lip, place the plant part on your tongue, holding it there for 15 minutes.
10 If there is no reaction, thoroughly chew a pinch and hold it in your mouth for 15 minutes. Do not swallow.
11 If no burning, itching, numbing stinging, or other irritation occurs during the 15 minutes, swallow the food.
12 Wait 8 hours. If any ill effects occur during this period, induce vomiting and drink a lot of water.
13 If no ill effects occur, eat 1/4 cup of the same plant part prepared the same way. Wait another 8 hours. If no ill effects occur, the plant part as prepared is safe for eating.
CAUTION
Test all parts of the plant for edibility, as some plants have both edible and inedible parts. Do not assume that a part that proved edible when cooked is also edible when raw. Test the part raw to ensure edibility before eating raw. The same part or plant may produce varying reactions in different individuals

Tips to keep you alive and well while foraging:

Be extremely careful when collecting mushrooms. Mistakes can be fatal.

Avoid collecting plants in commercially fertilized areas or where toxic herbicides or other chemicals may have been sprayed. This means avoid collecting under power lines, right of ways, in unfamiliar weedy lawns, beside commercial crop fields, or close to roadsides. Better to error on the side of caution!

Be grateful. Before picking, plucking or digging, pause for a moment and give thanks to the plant that is giving itself to you. Collect with consciousness. Make the area look as though you were not there. Take only what you need, leaving plenty for wildlife and future years.

Once the food is collected, clean and sort it ‘in the field’. It is much easier there. No cook wants a sink full of muddy roots mingled with grass blades and half an anthill.

Before you eat a food, be sure to prepare correctly. Many plants can be mildly toxic and may require cooking or parboiling (and then discarding) the first and second ‘waters’ before ingesting.

Learn to blend wild produce into a meal in subtle ways. Often the flavors can be quite strong. I like to use garlic mustard in my tomato sauces. It gives a light garlic taste.

*There is special preparations needed eat it.

** Caution this plant either has parts that are toxic or a poisonous look-alikes

Wild Onion/Garlic/Leek

Acer spp. – Maple ~ The inner bark & seeds

Allium spp. – Wild Onion/Garlic/Leek ~ The bulb & leaves

Amaranthus spp. – Amaranth ~ the seeds, shoots & leaves

Apios americana – Groundnut ~ The tubers (roots)

Arisaema atrorubens – Jack in the Pulpit ~ The corm (well dried)*

Armoracea lapathifolia – Horseradish ~ The young leaves & roots

Milkweed*

Asarum canadense – Wild Ginger ~ The rootstock

Asclepias spp. – Milkweed ~ Young pods, before they set seed

Asimina triloba – Pawpaw ~ fruits (I’m dying to try these)

Artium spp. – Burdock ~ The root

Barbarea spp. – Winter Cress ~ The young leaves & flower

Betula spp. – Birch ~ The sap, inner bark, twigs

Chicory

Brassica spp. – Wild Mustards ~ The young leaves, flowerbuds, & seeds

Capsella bursa-pastoris – Shepard’s Purse ~ The young leaves, seedpods

Carya spp. – Hickory and Pecan ~ Yummy nuts

Castanea pumila – Chinquapin ~ nuts

Celtis spp. – Hackberry ~ The fruits

Cercis canadensis – Redbud flowers~ The young pods

Ox-Eye Daisy

Chenopodium album – Lamb’s Quarters ~ The young leaves and tops

Cichorium intybus – Chicory ~ young leaves & root

Cirsium spp. – Thistle ~ The young leaves, inner stem (pith) & 1st year root

Chrysanthemum/Leucanthemum – ~ The young leaves

Claytonia spp. – Spring Beauty ~ corm**

Wild Carrot

Commelina spp. – Day Flower ~ The young leaves and stem

Corylus spp. – Hazelnuts ~ Yummy nuts

Crataegus spp. – Hawthorn ~ The fruits

Cyperus esculentus Chufa – Nut Grass ~ The tuber

Daucus carota – Wild Carrot ~ The root**

Diospyros virginiana – Persimmon ~ The fruits*

Erechtites hieracfolia – Fireweed ~ The young shoots and leaves

Wild Strawberry

Fragaria spp. – Wild Strawberry ~ The fruit, leaves*

Fagus grandifolia – Beech ~ nuts

Fraxinus spp. – Ash ~ The fruits

Galium aparine & verum Cleavers – Bedstraw ~ The young shoots/leaves

Gleditsia triacanthos -Honey Locust ~ The fruits

Helianthus tuberosus – Jerusalem artichoke ~ The tuber (Makes the best soup!)

Jerusalem Artichoke

Hemerocallis fulva – Day Lily ~ The young shoots, flower, flower buds, tuber

Heracleum maximum – Cow-Parsnip ~ The young stems/ leafstalks, seeds, root**

Juglans nigra – Black Walnut ~ Yummy nuts

Lactuca spp. – Wild Lettuce ~ The young leaves

Lamium amplexicaule – Henbit ~ The new tips

Lepidium spp. – Peppergrass ~ The young leaves & seedpods

Common Mallow

Lycopus spp. – Bugleweed ~ The tubers

Malva neglecta – Common Mallow ~ The young leaves & green fruit

Matricaria matricarioides – Pineapple-Weed ~ The flowers

Medeola virginiana – Indian Cucumber ~ The root & tuber

Mentha, spp. – Wild mint ~ The leaves (Did someone say Mojito?!)

Mitchella repens – Partridgeberry ~ The fruits

Morus, spp. – Mulberry ~ The fruits

Mulberries

Nasturtium officinale – Watercress ~ The young leaves and stems

Nelumbo lutea – American Lotus ~ The young leaves, seeds & tubers

Nuphar, spp. – Yellow Pond Lily ~ The rootstocks, seeds

Nymphaea spp.- Water Lily – The young leaves, flowerbuds, seeds & tubers

Oenothera biennis – Evening Primrose ~ 1st year taproots, young small plants

Opuntia humifusa – Prickly-Pear ~ young leaf pads,* fruit & seeds

Yellow Wood-Sorrels

Oxalis, spp. – Yellow Wood-Sorrels ~ The leaves & fruit

Pastinaca sativa – Wild Parsnip ~ The taproot

Phragmites communis Reed – Phragmites ~ The young stem, seeds & rootstock

Physalis spp. – Ground-cherry ~ The fruits

Phytolacca americana – Pokeweed ~ The young leaves**

Plantago spp. – Plantain ~ The leaves

May Apple

Podophyllum peltatum – May-apple, Mandrake ~ Only the mature fruit**

Polygonum cuspidatum – Japanese Knotweed ~ The new bamboo-like tips

Pontederia cordata – Pickerel Weed ~ The shoots & seeds

Portulaca oleracea – Purslane ~ The stems and leaves & seeds

Prunus americana – Wild Plum ~ The fruits

Prunus spp. – Wild Cherry (Choke, Black) ~ The fruits

Pteridium aquilinum – Bracken fern ~ The fiddlehead

Pteretis pensylvanica – Ostrich Fern ~ The fiddlehead

Chokeberry

Malus spp. – Crap Apple ~ The fruits

Pyrus, spp. – Chokeberry, Chokecherry ~ fruits

Quercus spp. – Oak ~ acorns*

Rhexia virginica – Meadow Beauty ~ The tender leaves, tubers

Ribes spp. – Gooseberries, Currents ~ fruits

Robinia pseudo-acacia – Black Locust ~ The flowers (only)

Wild Rose Hip

Rosa spp. – Wild Rose ~ petals, fruits (hips)

Rubus spp. – Brambles ~ Fruits Blackberry, Raspberry, Dewberry, etc.

Rubus typhina and spp. – Staghorn Sumac ~ The fruit**

Rumex acetosella – Sheep (or Common) Sorrel ~ The tender leaves and stems

Rumex crispus -Dock, Curled and Yellow ~ The young leaves

Sagittaria spp. – Arrowhead ~ The tubers

Elderberry

Salix spp. – Willow leaves ~ The inner bark

Sambucus canadensis – Elderberry ~ The flower clusters, ripe fruit**

Sassafras albidum – Sassafras leaves ~ The root (for tea)

Scirpus spp.- Bulrush ~ The shoot, pollen, seeds & rootstock

Smilax spp. – Catbrier, Greenbrier ~ The young shoots and leaves & rootstock

Solidago odora – Sweet Goldenrod ~ The leaves and flowers

Sweet Goldenrod

Stellaria spp. – Chickweed ~ The tender leaves and stems

Taraxacum officinale – Dandelion ~ The leaves and root

Tilia americana – Basswood ~ The leaf buds and flowers

Tradescantia spp. – Spiderwort ~ The shoots

Tragopogon porrifolius – Salsify, Oyster-Plant ~ The young leaves and root

Trifolium pratense – Red Clover ~ The young leaves and flowers

Spiderwort

Trifolium spp. – Clover ~ The young leaves, flowerheads

Typha spp – Cattails ~ Young shoots and stocks (inner core), immature flowers, pollen and root

Urtica dioica – Stinging Nettle ~ The young shoots & leaves*

Vaccinium, spp. – Blueberry, Huckleberry ~ The yummy fruits

Viola, spp. – Violet ~ The leaves & flowers

Vitis, spp. – Grapes ~ The tender leaves and fruit***

Blueberry

© Wellness Garden Design

° Here’s the standard warning ~ Kids, don’t try this at home! Go out in the forest and give it a try!! Please truly know you’ve identified the edible plant correctly before eating. I’m not going down for it 😉

Published by Wellness Garden Design

Wellness Gardens use plants that excite the senses, are inclusive to all & aids in nurturing serenity. 💚🌳💚 Grant aid for nonprofits #gardenscanheal

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